It’s hard to believe my baby sister Brie is twenty-three today.
A concept that boggles my mind is that we’re supposed to accept blood-relations as family under all circumstances. Gaby sent me a great article called “Motherless by Choice” by Katie Naum. Ms. Naum’s mother wasn’t loving or supportive — she inflicted psychological terror and abuse. After years of trying to build up her self-esteem while her mother constantly tore her down, Ms. Naum escaped. She has cut off contact with her mother and has become happier, healthier, and more mentally stable.
I commented on Ms. Naum’s article to congratulate her for working on becoming the great woman she always had the potential to be. I assured her that there are many of us who have toxic relationships with our parents, so ignore the naysayers and people who don’t understand. I couldn’t believe that numerous commenters shamed her for removing her mother from her life. People quoted the Ten Commandments about “honoring your father and mother.” People warned that she would regret not making peace with her mother when her mother died.
My relationship with my mother hasn’t been as toxic as the author’s with her mother. But I related to Ms. Naum’s feelings. For years, I attempted to be the perfect, obedient daughter that she and my father expected me to be. Any time I would disagree with them, they would berate me for being ungrateful and insolent. My father constantly itemized how much supporting me cost. I blindly accepted everything they said as true. I thought my worth was based on their pride in me.
Father’s Day is on Sunday. I’ll be in Alpharetta for the day, as Brie needed someone to watch her while her nanny makes lunch and my parents go to church. I’m looking forward to having sister time without our parents or her nanny. I didn’t attend Mother’s Day, as I took a trip to California with Andrea and Shaina, instead. I don’t regret missing lunch with my mother that day — she was still harassing me because I don’t make spend enough time with “the family.” (Even if for the past several years, I would go there for lunch or dinner once a week. I don’t know any other people in their twenties who make that kind of effort, especially with parents who are the vortex of negativity in their lives.) Raf is in charge of getting our card, but there is no Hallmark card for those who have strained relationships with their parents.
Family’s involvement in your life should be conditional, just as it is with anyone else. Sharing genetics shouldn’t be a free pass to repeatedly tear someone down. Birthing someone doesn’t give you the right to consistently scream that you hope she fails, since her goals don’t aligned with yours. On the surface, I’ll be civil. But I can never be sincere about celebrating the days that praise the two biggest haters in my life.
you fled the place where
you mastered the art of placating
& shielded siblings from shockwaves
made by emotional warfare.
you cannot miss the place where
you learned that obedience
took priority over your happiness
(independent thought was forbidden)
& you were berated into submission.
you found the place called home
within the people who helped you
discover that despite (years of)
being conditioned to think the contrary,
you deserve love (& support).
“Sometimes, I pretend to be retarded while in public.”
my hands curled to fists
ready to fight
“My little sister is autistic and mentally handicapped.
It’s really offensive for you to do that.”
don’t yell at this ignorant bitch —
you just met her; she’s your friend’s best friend.
surely she has hidden redeeming qualities.
“But I don’t do it to make fun of retards!
I love them — they’re hilarious!”
equally disgusted & incredulous,
i glanced at our mutual friend.
“Just watch — she’s so funny!”
i rolled my eyes & exited the room.
even at fourteen, i had no patience
for antagonistic bullies disguised as “cool kids.”
The office was sweltering. Normally, I would wear a cardigan over a sleeveless dress for the entire day, but I was on the verge of melting. Since everyone was out to lunch, no one could be scandalized by my bare arms. I walked to the supplies room and reached for the paperclips on the top shelf.
“Did ya forget to wash or somethin’?” Old Jim asked from the doorway.
I jumped, dropping a box of paperclips that scattered on the floor. “Geez, Jim — you scared me!”
“Am I gonna hafta talk with HR about your bathing habits?”
“I bathe daily! Do I smell or something?”
“Nah, you’ve got some stuff on your shoulders.”
“Oh!” I laughed as he helped me gather the paperclips. “I have tattoos on my back.”
“Three pieces — one on each shoulder blade and got a new one in between.”
“Holy shit, Sam! That’s not a piece — that’s a billboard!” Old Jim’s eyes widened. “What’s your mama got to say?”
“She knows about the other two, not about this new one.”
“You kids ‘n’ your tattoos ‘n’ rebelliousness.”
“If I was being rebellious, I would’ve gotten some that would be in plain view all the time.”
“Then why’d ya get ’em done?”
“Each of them is for someone awesome in my life. The puzzle pieces heart is for my sister who is autistic (puzzle pieces are the symbol for autism). My best friend from college and I have matching ones of the bear and the tiger, which we got senior year. The one I got yesterday is for my boyfriend and me.”
“What’s the quote say? Is that French?”
“It’s a quote from The Little Prince that says, It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“At least you got meaningful ones, not some dumb shit.”
“Maybe that should be my next one — Not some dumb shit in plain typewriter font.”
“Your mama would be thrilled about that one.”
“She’s always pissed at me. I might as well do what I want.”
“Are you seriously gonna get more?”
“I’m going to fill up my whole back.”
“You’ll be a mural on the side of a building!”
I had lunch with Raf today. Though we hung out last weekend, we wanted to have either lunch or dinner before my trip. He and Brie were the only ones in attendance at our mother’s birthday dinner last night (which I didn’t attend because of this bullshit).
“Y’know, Mom would never tell you this, but Brie set aside pad Thai for you last night.”
“She did?” My voice cracked.
“Yeah. Brie thought you were coming to dinner, so she wanted to make sure you had a plate.”
I couldn’t help it. My eyes welled up.
“Whoa, sis — didn’t meant to make you get all emotional before going back to work.”
“I just love you two a lot. I wish I could’ve seen Brie this past weekend, but — ”
“I know. Dad was there. I get why you wouldn’t wanna see him after everything he said.”
“I’ll be there while Mom is in Philly, once I get back.”
Our parents are wrong. Brie knows I haven’t left her. She hates being around our parents as much as I do because of their erratic, explosive behavior. When I get back from Asia, Brie and I will have sister bonding time (since Raf usually works on weekends). Our parents won’t prevent me from seeing two of my favorite people.